What Is Fining and How Does It Work

While natural winemaking uses unfined wine, fining brings clarity, taste, and shelf life to wine. However, this process also scrapes off the natural nutrients and aroma of the wine.

Find out all about the meaning of fining, the step-by-step method behind how it works, and comparisons with ways to detect whether or not a wine has been fined.

Fining Defined

While many winemakers believe fining removes the natural texture and color of the wine, processing the wine in this manner while in the cellar is a crucial part of the clarification and stabilization process in winemaking. It’s essential for removing colloids in the wine, which come from tannins, phenolics, and polysaccharides.

Fining is defined as the act of eliminating unwanted elements in the wine. These are usually done with the help of agents or substances that create enzymatic, ionic, or adsorbent bonds for easy removal.

Typically, unwanted particles such as residual grapes and yeast give a hazy or cloudy tint to the wine when it faces heat or light, which is removed by the process.

How The Process Works

While some winemakers filter, others fine, and some others don’t implement either process. Typically, the process is completed prior to bottling the wine or polishing it given it’s part-and-parcel of the tasting notes of a wine.

Take a look at the following steps on how fining takes place in the winemaking process.

  • Step 1: Agents such as gelatin, plant proteins, isinglass, casein, eggs, bentonite, cyanide or carbon are added to the wine.
  • Step 2: The enzymatic/ionic/adsorbent bonding takes place.
  • Step 3: The unwanted particles change into an agglomeration, which dissolves and precipitates into the bottom of the wine.
  • Step 4: Wine is racked to eliminate the sediment.

Oftentimes, the winemakers who highlight that the wine has been fined on the bottle disclose the agents used to complete the process as well.

Is Wine Better After Fining?

Red wines are known to derive a softer astringency and color after fining. That’s why the process is often debated amongst wine experts. Check the pros and cons below and decide for yourself.

  • Appearance: The process transforms the wine from cloudy or hazy to clear and light.
  • Allergy/ Dietary Restrictions: Many techniques include agents that are potential allergens. However, it’s essential for the removal of hydrogen sulfide from the wine.
  • Shelf life: When unfined, the suspended particles can make the wine hazy or change its appearance within two to three years or when the proteins denature at high temperatures
  • Clarity: While most wines will clear on their own, this process improves stability and clarity of the wine.
  • Taste: Many winemakers who engage in this process also say that it reduces the bitterness of the wine by lowering the concentration of the flavors, and hence, most winemakers say ‘unfined’ proudly on the bottle.

How Do You Tell If A Wine Has Undergone Fining?

Wondering if your wine is fined or unfined? Unfined wines have more antioxidants, preventing oxidation, but this may not be a sign of a better wine. To decipher whether your wine at hand is fined, you need to look at the following telltale signs.

  • Appearance: If you see suspended particles or multiple layers of color to the wine in the bottle when kept undisturbed for a few hours, the wine isn’t fined.
  • Australia and New Zealand wines: The wine labeling laws in these two countries require winemakers to disclose the agents used on the bottle itself.
  • French wines: You can see the words ‘ non-collé’, which means unfined in French when you buy unfined wine.
  • Other parts: The native equivalent or the word ‘unfined’ may be displayed on the bottle. However, most non-European wine laws don’t require unfined or the equivalent of fined to be displayed on the bottle.

Bottom Line

Fining is the among the best ways to remove the unwanted particles from your wine. While it can remove bitterness, concentration, aroma, and flavor, it can also protect the wine and smoothen its drinkability. You can identify if a wine is fined along with the list of agents from its label mostly.

Seeking fined and unfined wine options? Browse the selections available from your favorite wine club to find the perfect wine club gift that may be fined or unfined depending on your personal preferences.